Goodness knows I’m probably the last person with whom you’d consult when it comes to religious matters. Yet the distressing irony of Nov. 1 is simply too much for me ignore.
Nov. 1 is widely celebrated by Christians as All Saints Day. Many Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans set aside this day to commemorate the saints – those remarkable people whose exemplary acts of charity and deep love of their fellow men and women are an inspiration to us all. For me, that person is Father Damien (more recently known as Saint Damien of Molokai since his canonization). He literally gave his life to care for those who had been forsaken by society. I wear a medallion with his image around my neck to always remind me of what it truly means to be charitable.
On Nov. 1 of this year, as has occurred for centuries, many different faiths celebrated and honored the incredible generosity of saints like Father Damien by hosting the Feast of All Saints.
But something else happened on this particular Nov. 1 which was overlooked by most others in our community. A handful of media outlets covered the story, but generally speaking it was ignored or missed by the rest of us.
On the Feast of All Saints day, nearly 1 out of every 3 children, and 1 out of every 5 senior citizens and people with disabilities, will have less food on their dinner table.
It’s incredibly ironic that the politicians in Washington (knowingly or unknowingly) chose the very day we feast to honor the most generous souls the world has ever known as the same day all 50 states were forced to lower food stamp benefits because of federal budget cuts.
Called Food Share Wisconsin in our state, the Pew Charitable Trusts estimate that federal cuts to food stamps will have a direct impact on 379,000 children and 164,000 elderly folks and people with disabilities in Wisconsin alone.
I certainly don’t want to get into the middle of the debate about whether governmental assistance at any level provides a disincentive for people to work. I’ll leave those arguments to the politicians and pundits. However, when it comes to children living in poverty, low-income seniors, and people with significant disabilities, I don’t think you can dismiss their suffering just by saying that they should all go out and get a job.
Our politics in Washington is perhaps as dysfunctional as it’s ever been. I find it hard to believe that our political leaders have any of the answers to the challenges that confront our nation. So I choose to put my faith in our community leaders and our local organizations instead. They are the ones that are truly cleaning up the mess that Washington has handed us.
For example, Lakeshore Community Action Program (also known as Lakeshore CAP) operates the largest food pantry in Door County out of their building at 131 S. 3rd Avenue in Sturgeon Bay. It’s led by Sandi Soik, Director of Door/Kewaunee County Services, a talented administrator who is able to squeeze an incredible amount of value out of every dollar that they receive.
“We’re able to buy food at 19 cents a pound through Feeding America,” says Soik. That allows Lakeshore CAP to supplement donated food items by purchasing commodities that haven’t been contributed lately so families can still receive a healthy balanced meal.
Lakeshore CAP serves more than 300 different Door County families every month. In what might be the start of a worrisome trend, Soik says, “In the last month, about five percent of the families we served have never been to our pantry before.”
The Door County Community Resource Program, more commonly known as Feed and Clothe My People & Thrift Store, provides food to about 40 families a month during the summer. During the off-season when jobs are scarce that number can climb to as many as 80 households.
Estella Huff, their director of operations, is as dedicated a human service professional as you’ll ever find. “We’re ready to handle an increase today,” says Huff, “But who knows where we’ll be six months from now.”
Senior Citizens in Door County have another option as well. The Door County Senior Resource Center provides meals Monday through Friday at the Senior Center at 832 N. 14th Ave. in Sturgeon Bay. They also offer frozen meals for the weekend and use satellite sites in Liberty Grove, Forestville, Baileys Harbor and Washington Island to provide meals on varying days all across Door County.
Celebrating the Feast of All Saints is an important tradition that commemorates some of the most giving souls our world has ever known. We can’t do anything (at least until the next election) about the politicians in Washington who no longer know the meaning of the word compromise. What we can do is reach out a helping hand to people in our community. We can emulate the saints and share of our own abundance with those who have so little.
Here are just a few places where you can send a donation to help feed a family in Door County:
• Door County Community Resource Program (also known as Feed and Clothe My People & Thrift Store)
PO Box 741
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
• Door County Senior Resource Center
Attn: Nutrition Program
832 N 14th Avenue in SB
• Lakeshore Community Action Program
Attn: Food Pantry
PO Box 791
For a more complete list of charities in Door County, go to givedoorcounty.org.